In July 2022, The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the current monkeypox epidemic a global
health emergency of international concern – the highest level of alert. Monkeypox is a viral disease that
occurs primarily in tropical rainforest areas of central and west Africa and is occasionally exported to other regions.
The current outbreak is unlike any previous one outside of Africa because there is sustained person-to-person transmission of the infection. As of July 2022, there have been over 16,800 confirmed infections in 74 countries that have not historically reported monkeypox cases. Most infections have been reported from Europe. The majority of infections have been in men who have sex with men, especially men who have sex with multiple partners.i
Currently there are no countries that have implemented travel restrictions or bans related to monkeypox. However, some countries have introduced either isolation requirements or recommendations for those who test positive or have been a known contact of a positive patient. The list of countries includes Belgium, UK, Netherlands, UAE, Canada and St. Lucia. While more countries may adapt isolation requirements for those who become positive or exposed, there is little indication broad travel restrictions will be instituted by countries due to this virus.
Signs and symptoms
Clinical presentation of Monkeypox can include with fever, headache, exhaustion, rash and swollen lymph nodes and symptoms last from 2-4 weeks. In some cases, monkeypox can lead to a range of medical complications and fatality (approximately 3-6% of cases).ii
The clinical presentation of monkeypox resembles that of smallpox (which was declared eradicated worldwide in 1980). Monkeypox is less contagious than smallpox and causes less severe illness. A vaccine developed for the treatment of smallpox has also been licensed for the treatment of monkeypox. However, vaccine availability is currently limited.iii
Given the recent spread of the virus and the limited vaccine availability, prevention is essential to managing monkeypox. The virus is spread from person-to-person via:
• Direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
• Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
• Touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
• Pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta.
Take the following steps to prevent getting monkeypox:
• Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox
• Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox
• Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox
• Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox
• Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox
• Practice safe sex using condoms
• Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
In Central and West Africa, avoid contact with animals that can spread monkeypox virus, usually rodents, marsupials and primates and refrain from eating or handling wild game (bush meat). Avoid sick or dead animals, as well as bedding or other materials they have touched.iv
If you suspect you have monkeypox
To prevent virus transmission, contact tracing and isolation are the main tactics to control the outbreak. If you think you have the virus please:
• Report to a health professional any illness during travel or upon return from central and west Africa
• Consult your doctor if you have any unusual rash or lesions
• Avoid touching your lesions or rashes
• Isolate until symptoms have resolved – if you need to leave isolation you should cover the rash and wear a well-fitting mask
• Reach out to anyone you’ve had close physical contact with and let them know about your symptoms.v
i Monkeypox: World Health Organization declares it a global health emergency – here’s what that means (theconversation.com)
ii Monkeypox (who.int)
iv Prevention | Monkeypox | Poxvirus | CDC
v How To Prevent Monkeypox: A Guide for Travelers – Test for Travel